Stephanie Burgis
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Accidental stories
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Two days ago I sat down at our morning writing session and stared at my notebook for about fifteen minutes, without any luck. Finally, I started freewriting about how I had no ideas. Across the table, Patrick sighed. "Look," he said, "Just do a writing exercise. Write a whole story in 10 sentences."

"Okay," I said. "What's the first sentence?"

"There had once been a palace on top of the hill," Patrick said.

"Hmm." I wrote in my notebook for about five minutes. Then I typed in the ten sentences I'd written. I read them out loud to Patrick.

"That sounds like the beginning of a good story," he said. "Keep going."

"What?" I blinked at him. "This was just an exercise. I don't write that kind of story!"

He looked at me. I looked back. I sighed. I started typing.

This morning I finished the story, at about 2500 words. It still has the first line Patrick gave me. It's even more NOT my usual kind of story than the last one was. At 500 words, I thought it might be a kids' story. By the time I hit halfway through, I was pretty sure it was way too dark and adult for that. I have no idea what to think of it now. But I know that I'm glad to have written it.

This is why I'm so glad to write with a partner. If not, I might still be freewriting in that notebook while I sought wildly for an appropriate and perfect short story idea...

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